In recent decades, the Chinese Air Force, known officially as the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, has undergone substantial modernization and expansion. Historically, this branch of the Chinese military was meant for domestic defense. However, as the air force evolved from mostly outdated, Soviet-era technology to more advanced and self-produced aircraft, so has its role, mirroring the country’s strategic ambitions to project power and diplomatic influence beyond its borders. (Here are 26 times the U.S. sent armed forces to China.)
The current fleet includes many domestically produced aircraft that can rival their Western counterparts given the specs and technology involved in their development.
Here, 24/7 Wall St. is taking a closer look at the PLAAF. To identify every aircraft in the Chinese Air Force, we reviewed Chinese active military aircraft from Military Factory, an online database of military arms, vehicles, and more. We ordered PLAAF aircraft according to when each entered service and included supplemental information from Military Factory regarding type of aircraft, maximum speed, manufacturer, and crew size.
A significant portion of China’s air force is composed of combat aircraft, including air superiority fighters, multi-role combat jets, and ground attack and bomber planes. The purpose of these aircraft is primarily to engage enemy planes and carry out strategic and precise strikes. Some examples of these Chinese fighter jets include the J-10, J-11, and J-16, which are all domestically produced. (Also see, the most common ships and submarines in the China’s navy.)
Outside of combat aircraft, Chinese transport aircraft are another component of the air force. Large domestically-produced transport planes such as the Y-8 and Y-9 play an important role in supplying troops, supporting humanitarian aid missions, and executing strategic airlift operations. The IL-76 and IL-78 are additional transport and tanker aircraft the PLAAF has available, with their roots back in the Soviet-era.
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